In the essay I wrote for that volume on cats, I told the story of how Pindar, the cat who lives with me now, insinuated himself into my life. In a small town about 10 miles from where I live, a student of mine had found Pindar at the barn where she kept her horse. And he was a mess. He wasn't one of the regular barn cats, but appeared to be a transient, and he needed immediate medical attention. He was emaciated, he had serious eye and ear problems, and his front paws were either burned or cut and one of them had a lima bean-sized tumor growing out of the wound. My student called me on a Saturday afternoon and informed me that she had brought him up to campus in a cat carrier but that she couldn't keep him because she lived in the dorms. I told her to take the cat to the emergency veterinary hospital, and I said that I would pay the bill if she would be sure to find the cat a home.
This was a moment at which I wasn't quite ready to take in a stray. My cats Ajax and Cleo, a brother and sister act whom I had acquired about twenty years earlier, had each passed away within the past couple of years, after a long and very fruitful collaboration with me. I was still in mourning and, truth be told, was rather enjoying being in charge of my living space after all those years of feline domination. (I'm a sucker and let them ride roughshod over me.) So I wasn't prepared for the phone call I received from my student several hours after telling her to take the new-found stray to the vet: "Well, so I'm here with the vet, and he says that in addition to all the other problems, the cat has feline AIDS and feline leukemia. And he says we should just put the cat to sleep right now." In a split second a great deal of my life and my work on the moral status of animals flashed before my mind's eye, and then I heard the following words emerge from my mouth like Pallas Athena out of Zeus's head: "No. Tell the vet to treat the cat as well as he can, and I'll come pick him up tomorrow and he will be mine." And the selfish part of me did not feel in the least good about it.